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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  August 17, 2017 6:30am-7:01am PDT

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. good evening. i'm tavis smiley. trayvon martin was killed walking with a canned of iced tea and a bag of skittles as we know by now. the incident sparked a national conversation about race and gun violence and consequently helped fuel a generation of black activists. tonight his parents sabrina fulton and tracy martin join us to talk about his life and pursuit of justice for his death called "rest in power." the enduring life of trayvon martin. sybrina fulton and trise and tr in just a minute.
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and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ ♪ the tragic death of trayvon martin sparked a march. it didn't happen on its own. not for the love and courage of his parare his parents, trayvon's story
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wouldn't be the catalyst it is today. called "rest in power." tracy, i'm honored to have you on the program. >> honor. >> sabrina, good to see you. >> glad to see you. >> wish it were different circumstances. it makes me want to ask do you ever get tired of doing this? do you just --? >> it drains you. it drains you. we know there is a long road ahead of us and our fight isn't ended in one day. we have a lifelong fight, uphill battle. we vow to continue this fight until the day we take our last breath. our work isn't done. >> how much more difficult, sabrina, is it? no one closes on the death of a loved one like a house or deal. you don't close on it but i suspect it may be difficult to come to terms with it when you can't avoid talking about it day in and day out. >> we can't -- i can't stop thinking about it.
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i mean, it has left a permanent hole in my heart and so i think about it every single day, and then i have people to come up to me and talk about it. i'm probably the last person to talk about trayvon martin. they are showing support and want to let us know they will lift us up and praying for us and things like that. you know, it's kind of hard, you know, and sometimes i'm not able -- i'm not motionly ab emoe to come out. sometimes i have to stay home. i can't go to the mall or grocery store sometimes because my spirit is low at times. only when i know that i'm going to be able to handle somebody talking about trarayvon is when actually come out. >> how much do you find yourself -- you said something that made me think about this. how much do you find yourself not just being comforted by other people because they know, you know what they are going through and they come to you and
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tell you stories looking for comfort? >> it definitely a day in and day out situation where certainly we're at the foundation and we receive calls of grieving parents trying to figure out how we sustain, how we kept our sanity through all our tragedies and for us to just be able to comfort someone and give them encouraging words on how to live their day to day lives after a loss of their loved one, it helps us kind of deal with what we're going through. >> yeah. >> just being able to comfort other parents. >> how have you sustained since you went there. how have down sustained the sanity throughout this? >> try to just pick up. we spend a lot of time with family and friends and the church. just try to get -- i've been trying to get my life back in
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order, you know, it was just disrupted and, you know, interrupted by this tragedy, but i surround myself with positive people and try to lift myself up when there is nobody around, but it's hard but we seem to be doing okay. >> yeah. i don't ever use this show as a platform. i have my own personal tradition and the audience knows that. i don't use this show as a platform but since you went there, i want to follow up. this for me is the reason i believe in that first palestinians you name jesus. that's the reason i believe in him because in a moment like this, ain't nobody else you can turn to. this is my personal testimony. i'm a person of faith because there are moments in my life where my mama can't help me, my daddy can't help me, you have to have a place to turn. i understand your comment, sabrina, about getting your lna.
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what has this tragedy done for your faith? has it tested your faith? has it done? >> a little bit of all of those. at some point in time i was questioning god and asking him why me and why did this happen to my family and why now and i had those type of questions and then my favorite bible verse in the book is trust in the lord with all your heart, lean not into your own understanding and in all your ways acknowledge him and he should direct your path. for me, lean not into my understanding. we don't understand what happened. i don't think anybody understands what happened. we have to lean on god, because that's the only explanation why thing s occur the way they do. >> your faith journey has been impacted in what way? >> it made me actually bring -- get a closer relationship to god. i've always had a great
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relationship with god. my father was a minister. my family's background has always been in the church. and so when your faith gets tested, you find yourself in a deep, dark corner so once you get into the corner, we question god and ask yourselves why do we question him and so i just think the -- all of the lonely nights by yourself, missing your loved ones, it makes you understand that there is a higher power that the relationship that you build with god is between you and god and nobody else can come in between that space. and so just knowing that i leaned on god every day and i continuously lean on him brought me closer to god. >> both of you, i'm asking for a reason, not to give your home address or anything but both of you still live in florida. >> yes. >> i thought you did because not
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that i expect you'd to pack up, move, and go someplace else but some people can't stay in the place where the pain and the agony -- i think now of dr. king's only living sibling,, his sister in atlanta to this day can't go back to memphis. it been almost 50 years since they killed her brother and she still -- unless it happened in the last couple days -- has not been able to go back to the city of memphis. i was so angry at the state of florida for the way they handled this, mishandled it, letting this guy off the hook, for the way the law is written. i've been mad at the state of florida. that's my personal assessment. how have you continued to live in this place that brought you so much pain? >> i actually think florida started this mess with stand your ground and so i don't think we should just pack up and leave and run. i never been a person to run
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from a good fight, and so what i think that is worth fighting for is worth fighting for not only trayvon martin but other trayvon martins, as well. florida took awhile to get in this mess and will take awhile to get out of the mess. we truly know trayvon is in heaven. i'm not going to let a specific location define where i go and cannot go. even though in the beginning i said i was never going to the area again. but i'm a mom and human being like anybody else and i felt that my son was being mistreated and chased and killed and i felt that i needed to be there because i needed to be his spokesperson. i needed to be his voice. >> you feel similar since you ain't left florida, feeter. >> definitely. we're not going to run from the fight, definitely to make a change you have to be part of the change and that's why we're
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staying in florida. we can make a change there. we definitely trying to work hard to change some of the laws that apply to us directly and indirectly. if we packed up and left, we really would be saying that we have no interest in making a change. so stand there on the battle grounds right there in florida -- florida has been known for so many different whether its from t's from the e to injustices, florida is known for bad things happening. so we feel that as though we have a platform, we have a voice to stand up and be the spokesmen for those people that can't speak up, and so we know that there's a lot of work to be done in florida and so that's why we're staying there. >> it's the right place to be. >> right. let me just add to that, where would we go that senseless gun violence isn't happening in the united states? >> you are prothetic, that's where i was about to go next.
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that's a powerful statement. whether or not you feel a sense of helplessness and felt and/or feel a sense of hopelessness or helplessness every time you see another story like this happening. it would be one thing if they killed your son five years ago and it stopped. we got in the street and protested and it stopped. every other week, every other month. so there ever a feeling of hopelessness or helplessness that can't stop the assault? >> tre is a sense of hopelessneshopeless ness when it first happens. we know things can change. despite what we're seeing in front of us, we know things can change and so we try to lift the families up. we try to encourage the families but the finger still points back to the justice system and allowing people to be shot and killed and the person who shoots and kills them walks away and goes to sleep, you know, in
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their bed. that's an awful thing. it sends an awful message to african americans to brown and black young men and women that you can be killed and nobody really cares. and that's where the whole black lives matter came from. because we wanted people to know that our lives care -- we care about our lives just as much as anybody else. >> i think that one of the biggest problems we're having is the criminal justice system really needs to be reformed, and the perception of black people need to -- you know, we need to reshape how people view us as men and women of color. you can get -- it's been proven you can get killed just by what you wear or just by how you walk or listening to. it been proven time and time again. so it time for us to sort of change that narrative or shift
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that paradigm to where people start looking at us as equal value. people start looking at us as the tax paying citizens we are. people start looking at us as the god-fearing people we are and we helped build this country and get this country to the status that it is now and so we should be treated as fair and equal. >> i wanted to debate whether or not president obama did enough or didn't do enough. did he speak out forcefully enough. one can debate that all day long. he's gone. how did it feel going through a campaign, if i can ask this, where the last president took the issues seriously but this guy just talked about law and order, law and order, criminal justice, criminal justice. how did it feel for you having to hear that and see that sort of attitude that was sort of relax about this?
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>> it feels disappointing because our young people that don't know what to do and actually don't feel safe in they own community and now we have someone in the white house that's not even standing up for our young people, not even standing up for our children, which we know are our future. it's very disappointing. >> yeah, i think the comments of this administration definitely have been disappointing, and the way that they talk is like this is a 1776 instead of 2017 and so we just have to take a closer look at the things that are being said, how they are trying to write up the policies, procedures and looking at our communities and what the view is overall. i just think that we really took a step backwards, and it's going to be an uphill battle to get back on track. >> if i'm raising something too sensitive, tell me. i'll back off. i've been dying to ask this question personally so i'll ask
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it since you're here. every time i got another news alert on my phone that george zimmerman had got himself in trouble again, i bash myself every time how does tracy process this? how does sabrina process this? not that you needed to be in any way proven to be right about who we thought this man was. you don't need to be affirmed in that way. but every time he got in trouble, i would ask myself how do they process that this guy is just -- he's just walking -- anyway. i'll shut up. how do you process it? >> for me, it's alwaysing a i a aggravating. it gets you to the point that you want to really say something or react but then we look at all of the positive things we've been doing and all of the lives that we've been touching and say
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why waste negative energy towards the individual that killed our son? as a man, i would be less than a father, less than a man to tell you that it didn't anger me because it does. at the same time, there is a greater mission in what we're trying to do and the more we talk about him, the more relevant he becomes. the less we talk about him, you know, he's -- >> that requires, though, a level of maturity and wisdom and conviction and courage. i don't think -- i don't know i'm cut out to do that. every time he got in trouble, i just wanted -- you-all have been so gracious about the way you've handled this. >> i think one of the things for me is i decide what i give my attention to and i decided that i won't allow him to give him my attention. so just because he does something that's ridiculous, does not require my attention. and so some of the things i just
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take a look at and i be like -- i mean, just -- it's just ridiculous. but we just keep moving forward, and i think the focus, we always try to stay focused on what we're doing and whenever something happens such as, you know, something ridiculous that he's doing, it kind of distracts you from what you're doing if you take time out of it and address it. so we just don't address it. we let whoever wants to address it, i mean, of course they call the foundation because they want comments. they want to keep the fire fueled but we don't allow it. >> yeah. i mean, i just bow down. i bow down. every time it happens, seems like another i told you so moment. if you didn't believe this was the guy we tried the tell you about in the courtroom time after time after time this is who he is. >> this is it. >> i digress on that. i wanted to ask. now i see. the foundation you referenced a few times. tell me about the foundation and what you want to do with this
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foundation. >> one of the things we do with the foundation is reach out to families that are victims of senseless gun violence but not only that, that's our target group but we also reach out to families that lost a child to an illness or maybe a car accident or maybe suicide and so we reach out to those families. we empower those families. we try to educate those families. we have events that we schedule for those families. we have one big event like in may and tracy does his also, but it's called the circle of mothers and we bring the mothers together for a bonding, a healing. of course, there is a little crying but also a time we rejoice in the life we have. so we also have mentoring programs for the young people. scholarship program. we have a scholarship program where we help two students a year go to from high school transition to college and so, that's basically what we do and it's about bringing awareness to
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senseless gun violence. >> when you think of trayvon, we know how his life ended tragically and far too soon. when you think about him and you want to put yourself in a place of joy and thanksgiving and make yourself smile, what do you go to? >> so many things. [ laughter ] >> so many things. you know, it's memories. it's just the memories. it's just, you know, how tall he was. how affectionate he was. how he thought he had to do everything for me. he hugged me and kissed me and didn't want people to sit next to me. he was a mama's boy. i think about all those things. i remember calling him. i would be up stairs and he would be down stairs and i would yell for him, trey, trey and when he came, i would tell him, can you get the remote that's right there and he would be like
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mom. you know. [ laughter ] >> he didn't mind. i don't care how many times i did it, he didn't mind. he was a mild-mannered get along with everybody kind of kid. >> real laid back, man. he was really a jokester. the thing about it, when you think about teenage boys, we know that they go through growing pains. >> yeah. >> and just seeinggoing pains and it's rare to find a 16, 17-year-old boy that want to baby sit with his little cousins and make cookies for them. that was his personality. that was his personality. he loved being the big cousin to the younger cousins and so just holding on to his memories keep us going. >> there is another son here. how has he navigated through this and i've done enough of
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these conversations over the years to know that when a child is lost, it impacts the parents and siblings as well and processes you have to go through to make sure you don't alienate this one or squeeze this one too tight. >> we squeeze too tight. we definitely squeeze too tight. >> tell me how that's coming along. >> well, he graduated from college. he has an it degree. he's in new york. he's doing really well. he has his own place. he's very concerned about paying his bills, you know, so we know he's growing up. >> right. >> we try to keep him away from the spotlight. he kind of -- he's a little shy. but we try to keep him away from the spotlight so he can have some normalcy in his life. but real cool dude. you know, kind of remind me of a tall thin model, you know. i mess with him all the time. i mess with him all the time.
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but, you know, we very proud of him. >> speaking of spotlight, you've been doing this for five years now. some of us are professionally trained to do this. you lose a child and all of a sudden, you on the news every night and writing books and out speaking. how have you found the journey of becoming a spokesperson? >> well, it's actually harder than it looks. you know, even writing the book, it took us a year and a half to write the book because it's hard to write about your own life and then it's even harder to read about your own life and so it took us awhile. we started and stopped and we started again. it was really hard. i think the whole thing is we stay focused. we stay focused on bringing trayvon back home to have the home going service. we stay focused on trying to get an arrest with the rallies and the supporters that we had. we pretty much stayed focus and
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now our focus is on the foundation. we won't let anything detour us from what we're focused on because we'll see it as a distraction. >> it's about getting yourself in a space you're comfortable with and doing progressive things being positive. you know that your voice alone carries a lot of weight in the african american communities and abroad and that just goes to show, when -- i mean, we didn't ask for this. but we felt as though our doors to our home had been opened up to the public since like day two and so since our doors of our home have been open, we knew that we had to protect our home and so this was a way of protecting our home, standing up, being strong, not letting this just go by as another killing. and so, that alone it taught us a lot of things, man. we didn't -- you know, we never had to rehearse for this. this is something -- i'm a firm
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believer, when you speak from the heart and talk from your heart, then everything just comes natural. >> that's right. they say what comes from the heart reaches the heart and i believe that. i love the title of the book "rest in power" and i love the way you wrote the book. i couldn't wait to get into it. you go back -- when you get the book you'll see this at home. i love the structure of it. the frame work. so they go back over these five years since the death of their son and each of them tells their own story. so sabrina write as chapter. tracy writes a chapter. it's really -- it's like this conversation was tonight, weaving in and out and both journeys and perspectives how you've navigated the five years. thank you for the book. thank you for coming to see us. thank you for the work that you are doing. i hate that you didn't ask for this, but you've stepped into it and you've stepped into it with grace and with dignity and thank
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you. that's all i can say. >> thank you. >> all right. >> the book again is called "rest in power, a parent's story of love and justice and the birth of a movement, the endu enduring life of trayvon martin" written by his parents. that's our show tonight. thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley on pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me for a conversation with actor william shatner. that's next time. see you then 67.
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪
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